29 May 2017

Review: Yoga for Grapplers by Nic Gregoriades, Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood

A concise yet highly detailed overlook at a variety of yoga and mobility movements designed specifically for jiu jitsu practitioners (and other grappling arts). In a manner consistent with his approach to his BJJ technique videos, Nic Gregoriades takes a very concept based approach and shows the major exercises that he himself practices. Nic's personal approach and lengthy explanations to each drill mark his product differently to Sebastian Broche's Yoga for BJJ program. Unlike the latter (and Youtube yoga video in generals), Nic's set is not a 'follow me along' class video. Instead, it is more like a seminar where he shows techniques and how to do them, but you are left to repeat the flows and drills in your own made up routine.

Yoga for Grapplers is available as an online purchase for £62 on this link here.
Video duration: 2 hours 36 minutes

Nic Gregoriades is a BJJ black belt under Roger Gracie. Most BJJ enthusiasts will be familiar with his frequent technique videos and other forms of content marketed under the Jiu Jitsu Brotherhood branding. This, his latest offering, showcases his passion for yoga and related body mobility drills. I have long known that Nic loved his yoga because whenever I have attended one of his classes (he often visits Mill Hill BJJ) he always begins and ends with a short yoga flow. So I was keen to see Nic present a longer instructional and to find out how similar or different it was to the popular online program, Yoga for BJJ.

1. Introduction 0:33
2. Key Concepts 2:05
3. Full Body Warm Up Sequences 20:59
4. Additional Neck Specific Exercises & Sequences 49:33
5. Additional Hip Specific Exercises & Sequences 1:04:49
6. Additional Upper-Torso Specific Exercises & Sequences 1:37
7. Additional Full-Body / Other Bodypart Exercises and Sequences 2:01:54
8. Additional Strength-Specific Exercises & Sequences 2:16:18

Nic opens this video with a brief monologue on the background to this set. He's keen to emphasize that these are not the regular exercises you'll find in a everyday yoga class. Nic has drawn widely from his many travels and has absorbed techniques not just from yoga teachers but also various mobility and exercise experts. Compiled together, it is a set dedicated to helping with the very specific problems that are common to those who practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

During the key concepts chapter Nic introduces us to a fair amount of technical 'jargon'. He sets the tone by describing Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID), anatomical neutral position, how to breathe, three yoga locks known as bhandas (mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, Jalandhara bandha), PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) plus there is the obligatory safety  warning not to overdo things and injure yourself.

I like that Nic offers these detailed conceptual explanations as it helps us understand the why of the movement as well as the what. But I must admit, my mind began to wander after a short while...I just wanted to get on with stretching and waving my bottom in the air, rather than have to sit through a theory session. But it is important stuff I suppose and you only have to watch this part the once.

Full Body Warm Up
This section shows various low-impact stretches and exercises that I recognised from having practised them on the Yoga for BJJ website. Nic suggests that these warm up drills can be done at any time whether it is a training day or a rest day. Conversely, he suggests that the specific body part exercises in later chapters ideally ought NOT be done on jiu jitsu training days as they are very hard on the body.

Nic shows each technique slowly and explains the posture as he performs them. He repeats the rep maybe once or twice then quickly moves on to the next move. Immediately it is notable that this entire instructional is not a workout class. Nic shows the techniques and explains them but you are meant to complete the repetitions yourself in your own time.

The movements shown in this chapter are very gentle and great for stretching all parts of the body. It concludes with that classic yoga staple the Sun Salutation A (45:45).

Neck Exercises
Oh man I loved these exercises. The neck is one of my main concerns as I find it is always stiff and sore. My problem is two-fold: I sit at my desk for long long hours (drawing and for my day job) plus my neck suffers from BJJ training as I tend to defend a lot by hunching up my shoulders. These simple exercises really helped me instantly. Even better, they're super simple to do and I can do them at my desk at work or home or on the bus...anywhere in fact. Again, Nic shows the movements briefly and then moves on to the next exercise, it is not a follow-me class video.

Hip Exercises
The hips are another area that I find get super sore and tight. Because of the lengthy time I spend on my deskchair, it is an area that suffers from a lack of movement for long hours. But then, when I go to BJJ class, I activate it very vigorously when playing guard and other positions. It's clearly an area that needs more tlc and these yoga/mobility drills help a lot.

Most of these exercises are familiar to yoga followers but others are culled from a different source: Nic credits the mobility instructor known as Scott Sonnon as an influence. Of the drills, I found the pelvic tilt to be hard to get more than a tiny amount of tilting movement. Something for me to work on. The others: leg swinging and the infinity symbol leg rotations were easy to do and very useful for warming up the hips joint. Nic covers the pigeon pose in lengthy detail and I found his explanations made my attempts much better than before.

One pose I had no hope of doing was the Reclining Hero, see photo. I just don't know how Nic can get down like that. The best I could do was to lean on the points of my elbows, but there was no chance of getting any further down.

The hip chapter concludes with stretches that use the BJJ belt and a few stretches that require the involvement of a partner. My wife didn't want to help me and my kids got bored after a few seconds so I haven't had the opportunity to work through the partnered drills for the time being but they look fun and appear to be the kind of stretches you see kickboxers and other kicking based practitioners do.

Upper Torso Exercises
It is one of the sport's ironies that 'posture' is something that is heavily emphasised in BJJ and yet in doing what we consider as good posture in BJJ, it kind of ruins our normal everyday posture. Nic opens this segment of his video recounting his own experience with noticing his poor everyday posture

These exercises were simple to do and I could do them anywhere. I especially liked the Rickson Gracie shoulder roll - which you can see him do (at quite some speed) about a minute into the video below:-

Nic also runs through exercises where you use the belt and stretch it over your head and behind your back (and then back again). This seems like a commonly performed stretch but Nic explains the errors and finesse of the exercise in a lot more detail than I've seen elsewhere.

There's this odd one that Nic calls the TaiChi teacups exercise. It was weird to try at first but after a bit of practice I was able to wind my arms in the correct manner - I guess I ought to try it with real cups of tea and test my resolve!

This twisting stretch below is another example where Nic goes to great lengths to explain the details necessary to make this exercise truly effective. Pretty much all the errors he observes are the same ones that I make when I try this stretch after each lesson so it was worth seeing how to do it properly.

At 1hr:56 Nic breaks the Down Dog pose into minute detail. This is a very common pose so it was well worth taking note of the information he offers. He even shows a partnered version where someone uses a belt to pull you back while you Down Dog.

Full Body Sequences
This chapter is mainly a set of partner assisted exercises: useful for warm ups or warm downs in class. I didn't try these out but have made a note to add them into my classes.

Strength Exercises
Nic's video concludes with a chapter on exercises dedicated to making you stronger. Interestingly it is this final chapter where Nic offers something close to a 'follow me' yoga flow sequence. The 'Wild Thing' sequence is really cool and brings together a lot of the movements Nic has shown elsewhere in this tape. The first time I tried it, I fell over on the back step but it's not too hard to perform as long as you have a familiarity with the main poses. When you watch the video, it doesn't look that hard to do but try repeating the flow a few times and you realises it's a pretty good work out.

First thing to explain is that this is not a yoga class video like what you find on Youtube or the Yoga for BJJ website. This instructional is more like a seminar where Nic explains a whole ton of exercises in minute detail and then you are left on your own to figure out your own routine.  These details really help you understand the theory behind each exercise and how to do them properly - it is taught very much like how you expect a good BJJ instructional to be plus it was reasonably free from too much of the spiritual narrative I hear on many Youtube yoga videos.

I personally found the exercises on offer were not that hard to do and greatly benefited me. It is worth also adding that while many of the exercises you'll see here are the same ones found in regular yoga systems, Nic also shows a lot of movements and exercises he has culled from other systems. The result is something he feels truly benefits BJJ grapplers specifically.


About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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